United States and Illinois Settle Premcor Environmental Case

Petroleum refiner Premcor Refining Group Inc. agrees to pay a $6.25 million fine for violating five federal environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Premcor Refining Group Inc. agreed to pay $6.25 million for violating five federal environmental statutes. The owners of the petroleum refinery reached the settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Illinois.

Premcor, formerly known as Clark Refining and Marketing Inc., will pay the penalty to resolve claims that its Blue Island Refinery in Blue Island, Ill. violated five federal statutes: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning, Community Right-To-Know Act and state of Illinois environmental laws and regulations. Premcor closed the refinery in January 2001.

The claims were originally part of the Justice Department''s Mississippi River Initiative, a comprehensive federal effort to keep illegal pollution - ranging from raw sewage to industrial waste - out of the river and to restore the river and surrounding communities to its historic grandeur. The water-related violations alleged that Premcor''s Blue Island Refinery made illegal discharges into the Cal-Sag Canal West of Chicago. The canal''s waters eventually flow into the Mississippi River. Other alleged violations of the Clean Water Act include discharges of illegal levels of pollutants to the local, publicly owned wastewater treatment plant. The United States also alleged that the refinery violated Clean Air Act emission limits for sulfur dioxide, a precursor of acid rain.

"This settlement represents the Department of Justice''s commitment to following through on its duty to enforce our nation''s environmental laws," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department''s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Where appropriate, stiff civil penalties for environmental violations are an important reflection of that commitment."

Sylvia K. Lowrance, acting assistant administrator of EPA''s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the agreement "continues our shared federal-state message that environmental compliance at petroleum refineries around the country must improve."

The Blue Island Refinery was in operation, under various owners, from the 1920s to January 2001. Prior to its closure, the refinery processed approximately 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Principal end products included gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating fuel and asphalt.

"This consent order demonstrates the benefits obtainable by a cooperative state-federal lawsuit to enforce our environmental laws and protect the people and environment of the State of Illinois," said Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan.

Premcor could not be reached for comment.

A consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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